The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has caught 21 weightlifters in five championships held recently, which could well turn out to be the biggest doping scandal in the country.
All the 21 lifters have been provisionally suspended by the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) pending inquiry and most of them belong to Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, which may dent the progress of the state in the sport.
"Yes, 21 lifters have tested positive and have been provisionally suspended, pending the result of their 'B' sample tests. Their 'B' sample tests are awaited," Indian Weightlifting Federation secretary general Sahdev Yadav said.
"This can be called one of the biggest catches in recent times but one has to take into consideration that it includes competitions at Universities, Police Games, Railways, etc also," he added.
In case their 'B' sample tests also comes out to be positive, the first-time offenders face the prospect of being banned for four years.
The lifters might face a four-year ban as per the new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for first-time offenders in a scenario where their 'B' samples also tests positive.
The substances for which the athletes have been found guilty falls in the non-specified category of WADA. The tests were conducted both out-of-competition and in-competition.
According to the IWF rules, in case of two or more doping violations in a 12-month period in tests conducted by the IWF or NADA, a state federation could be suspended from participating in any activities of the IWF for a period of up to two years.
Yadav said even the the coaches of the banned lifters would face suspension and could also be fined.
"The athletes were caught for using different banned substances. Strict action would be taken against coaches as well," Yadav clarified.
During the National Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships, eight lifters had tested positive.
Punjab's Simranpreet Kaur, who won a gold medal in 63kg in both the Youth and Junior categories, tested positive, besides Amritpal Singh (85kg, gold) and Arshdeep Kaur (58kg, silver) in the same tournament.
Three out of four weightlifters, who had failed dope tests at the 35th National Games held in Kerala in January-February, were from the northern states.
2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist weightlifter Geeta Rani (Punjab), Harjeet Kaur (Haryana) and Mangte P Kom (Chandigarh), besides Komal Wakale from Maharashtra, who all tested positive.
The highest numbers of positive cases happened during the National Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships held in January earlier this year.
(With PTI inputs)